As Carole Duggan says, it has been over five and a half years since Mark Duggan’s brutal “execution” at the hands of metropolitan police in Tottenham. The officer responsible, known as V53 in court proceedings, justified the murder by arguing that he truly believed Duggan had been armed and posed a threat. The jury at the 2014 inquest ruled that Duggan was, in fact, unarmed, but convinced that V53 truly imagined otherwise, deemed the murder a “lawful killing.”
At 10:30am on 2 March, Mark Duggan’s family began another battle in the long, tedious and unjust legal proceedings they’ve had to endure since his murder. They requested that the lawful killing verdict be officially overturned in the Court of Appeals. Citing improper direction given to the jury by the coroner at the 2014 inquest, which they allege framed the circumstances of the murder far too narrowly, the Duggan family’s legal team argued that the verdict needed further consideration by the courts.
In appeals court, their lawyer also stressed that the reasonability of V53’s belief that Duggan was armed must be questioned: how could a police officer specifically trained to “risk assess situations” and recognise firearms in the field realistically believe that Duggan had raised a gun when the weapon in question was meters away, on the other side of a fence?
Observers supporting the appeal effort arrived around 10am to enter the Royal Courts of Justice with Duggan’s mother, Pamela, and other family members. The courtroom was full, and a run-off room was set up for more spectators. Outside, a small group of photographers and police officers huddled near the doors, all expecting crowds of protesters supporting the Duggans. But the attendance was not what anyone had anticipated: Pamela Duggan had called on the general public to pack the courtroom, forcing the judges to recognise the continuing importance and injustice of her son’s case. Nearly 600 people had expressed interest in attending on Facebook, but when I arrived, it appeared that only 60 of those people had actually shown up. While this was enough to fill a courtroom, attendance only shrunk as the day progressed.
Where was the crowd we’d all expected? Where were all my well-intentioned non-black friends who faithfully posted regular #justice4mark posts in 2011 and 2014, and advertised their interest in the event on Facebook, but who didn’t actually show up? The Royal Courts are located within walking distance of Kings College, the LSE and SOAS; there were thousands of students on campus who could have dropped in on the appeal for just a few hours at any point in the day just to honour Pamela’s request. Solidarity takes many different forms, but in this specific instance, Duggan’s family requested a singular iteration of support: our physical presence. And we didn’t show up.
At the end of the session, the three appeals court judges retired to review the case, and a date for their sentencing will be announced. When that day comes, if Pamela and the rest of the Duggan family requests it, I hope that more of us who are able to be there, are there. It’s impossible to forget Mark Duggan, and continued anti-black police brutality in the United Kingdom and abroad. Let’s remind the Royal Courts that we haven’t forgotten Mark by showing up for his family next time.